It all started in the summer of 2008, this love for deduction.
The heat of recession was searing cities, countries and economies. Jobs were toast. Companies were either merging or getting absorbed by bigger units to stay afloat. Amidst all this chaos, five entrepreneurially - naïve people, decided on doing something rather enterprising for their nature. They decided to start Analytics Quotients - A Knowledge Co-Operative, as they'd come to call themselves.
At first sight, you might see them as simple folks, busy at their desks, crunching numbers on their computer screens and drawing up lovely looking charts consequential to their toils (or should I say toy-ls) with data. But there is more to it than meets the eye.
Pritha Choudhary, the Co-Founder and CEO of AQ, was one of the first ones to take a leap of faith despite the market conditions then. But the recession effects on the economy were the least of her concerns. "We said to ourselves, if we work, we work, if we don't, we can blame it on the bad economy", she said with a confident smile.
Well, that's sorted! J
"But why analytics? You could've got into marketing, sales… anything at all. Why did you choose to start a Data Analytics company despite 4 years of working with one?"
"Because, this is what we fell in love with. We (my co-founders and I) all used to work together in another analytics company - Marketics, which was one of the pioneering analytics firms in India back in 2004. At that time there were not many companies in pure play analytics and we were working with one. When Marketics got sold to WNS Holdings, we were debating whether or not to start something of our own. We came up with the idea for AQ because we were excited to do a specific type of analytics that was at the edge of different kinds of data disciplines - like Statistics, Math, Market Research, Technology and Marketing. There was a nice spot between data analytics, consulting (business consulting end of things) and data visualization. And that's where we wanted to be, at the heart of it".
"We'd worked with many clients before, so we knew that there was a clear sweet spot there. It was an exciting place for us to be. We started with this premise that WE WANT TO TELL STORIES and that's kept us looking forward to telling more and more of them each time we've been asked to".
"It appears as though you have an affinity toward being a Data detective. Did you choose to be one, or was this just a coincidence?"
"I began my career as a Management Trainee and later worked as Field Promotion Manager at Colgate Pamolive. Among other things, my job was also to think up promotions to put on Creams and toothpaste. I didn't like it so much. Then Marketics happened just by chance. And I knew it then - I was in love with the role of a data detective. Our Clients used to come to us with a lot of data and would ask us identify for them the natural segments in their market or other such business relevant questions. And we'd be blown by the result of our work. Just by looking at the data results of the market research work, you'd get to see this beautiful picture of who your end customer will be, why they behave the way they do and it is just fascinating. I had never thought of myself as a data person, not being very good at Math and statistics. I was frankly intimidated by the thought of joining a data company, because that is what I thought I would be doing, you know, statistics and data stuff and all that. But I realized that it was all about discovering stories. Essentially good analytics is just about picking up the pieces of the story from random rows of data and figuring out the rest of it".
And is this what you tell your team to do? Bring out their inner Sherlocks?
Absolutely! In the end of the day it is all about Data detection. You go at it with a magnifying glass and you get certain things, your findings. Then you get the same pattern somewhere else and you make a dotted line joining the two. Then you hope to get the same thing in another set of data else you go looking for it someplace else and then aha! You've found it! So being curious and persistent is a must.
"Can every member of your analytics team tell stories with data?"
"Yes. It is one of the most important things we focus on. We have trainings around the concept of telling stories with data analytics. Typically an analytics company takes data, does a lot of very cool stuff on it and gives you back some data, right? Or it gives you a power point report with three lines in it, saying this is what it is. But we wanted to go beyond that. We wanted to show our clients a way, an option, a solution to their problems. We wanted to be different by addressing business issues with our work. We visualize their future in a way".
So you say that the plot has thickened? J
Of course! Analytics has ballooned. There are so many things that fall under analytics. When this industry was still in the nascent stage, analytics was understood to be equal to statistics. It was primarily data based and there was no dimension to it. Now, it is so different. We are so closely involved with the way business works. Our clients know what to expect and their questions have got deeper. More and more of our clients are talking about bringing analytics down to the rest of their organisation. Everyone wants to do something with data and the demand for it is a lot more concrete to help various departments. Analytics has moved from Math to Art. We call ourselves the knowledge co-operative because we help each other and our clients to better in their businesses. We are not giving them a standard set of answers anymore. We visualize the solutions. So yes! We are 'the data detectives' for our clients". :
"So how does it feel with AQ turning four years old?"
I am really proud of the fact that a lot of things we thought have really come to pass. A lot of clients who used to work with other vendors came to us saying, we hear that you do a good work of story-telling and that's what we want. We've grown beyond that first wave of analytics where you see all the geeky guys coming in and churning lots of data - that has passed. We've grown to getting closer to the businesses we work so hard to help. We grew out of a home-office thanks to all the clients who came to us because they'd heard good things about us. In four years, we've grown to a team of a hundred plus guys.
What's it like to be a first time entrepreneur?
We are all first time entrepreneurs. We've never done this before. The advantage we had was that we had been in an Entrepreneurial company before. Marketics was a startup and it was owned by guys who had been serial entrepreneurs. It was fascinating to observe how they did things and you get to learn a lot of things by merely looking at others tackle it. But each journey is very personal and as much as you think you've seen a lot, it is a whole different ball-game when you have to do it by yourself.
From a personal point of view, you realise how much self-awareness you need to be a startup entrepreneur; because you can't anticipate all the things that are going to be thrown at you. Every year you think that the following year would get a lot easier, but it only gets tougher and tougher. Different challenges, different ways to tackle and that's what keeps you excited.
Analytics helps companies make better decisions. Be it for something as small as the kind of face-tissue we'd use or as big as how we'd respond to the features on the latest smart phone. So as complex as it seems, analytics as component to business is fairly elementary. ;) At AQ, the whole team is in love (yes! in love) with numbers. It's like watching a hundred Russell Crowes play Professor John Nash from the Oscar winning movie - A Beautiful Mind. It fascinates them to weave stories using Math, stats, data, more data and their computers as their white boards.
It is now safe to say that the definition of love includes 'ineffable feelings for analytics' as well J
Author of the article, Poonam Kulkarni
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